After J. F. Shea Co. Inc.'s predecessors participated in three of the 10 most significant construction projects of the 20th century--the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and the U.S. Interstate Highway System--its principals figured, why not build homes? Success in the tunnel and dam business over the previous 80 years had endowed J.F. Shea Co. with the financial base to broaden its interests in the late 1960s. The firm could not have picked a better time--A residential building boom was on and Americans were moving into new homes in record numbers. Since then, home ownership in the United States has continued to grow.
Today, a variety of construction and real estate firms comprise the Shea family of companies. Shea Homes builds houses and develops masterplanned communities; Shea Properties develops, builds, owns and manages apartments, retail centers and commercial buildings; and J. F. Shea Construction Co. specializes in underground projects, including tunnels and pipelines, and in the construction of facilities for wastewater treatment, water storage and distribution.
Ever since John F. Shea started a plumbing company in 1881, the Shea family has owned and operated its construction and real estate businesses. John Shea, chairman, and his cousins, Edmund Shea, executivevice president, and Peter Shea Sr., president of J.F. Shea Construction, are the founder's grandsons, as well as this generation's ownersand operators. They have carried on the family legacy since they were old enough to lend a hand, and the three have managed the Shea businesses since 1958. Under their leadership, the J. F. Shea Co. has diversified and grown into one of the largest privately-held companies in the country. The focus of J.F. Shea has always been about exceedingcustomer expectations. 'There are a lot of good homebuilders and contractors that perform similar work, but we strive to be of the highest quality--that's our main focus," John Shea says. "We want to be known for providing the very best quality, whether it's building tunnels, homes, offices, shopping centers or apartment buildings. We like tothink we're right up there with the very best."
Already this year, the company's home building division has been honored as one of America's Best Builders from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "We're proud of the award," says Bert Selva, president and CEO of Shea Homes. "It's a great testimony to the hard work and commitment of our associates." In addition, NAHB awarded the Vistancia Community in Peoria, Ariz., as the best masterplanned community in the United States. In 2004, Shea Homes closed on a record6,408 homes and sold 6,757.
SHEA HOMES: A NEW ERA
Just as J. F. Shea Co. had mastered dam and tunnel work, it went head first into the home building industry. Today, Shea Homes is the largest privately-owned homebuilder in the United States, providing a diverse selection of housing products for buyers interested in condominiums, town homes or single-family homes.
Shea Homes has eight divisions across Arizona, California, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington. "Shea Homes is our largest business," John Shea says. "Nationwide, Shea Homes is the 12th-largest homebuilder and No. 1 among private builders."
John Shea finds many ways in which remaining a private company hasworked to Shea Homes' advantage. "Our competitors are great companies, but being private, we have some advantages over public companies. We're not subject to the regulations and quarterly expectations of public companies, so it's more attractive to us to stay private."
In 1998, Shea Homes purchased UDC Homes in another large acquisition that complemented Shea Homes' presence in several existing markets, and strengthened its position as one of the leaders in the homebuilding industry. UDC, a major developer of housing for active adults, provided Shea Homes' entry into that rapidly expanding market with an active adult division. Most of the Shea Homes' active-adult communities today are branded "Trilogy" and provide numerous amenities for residents, including golf courses, walking trails, parks, fitness centers and spa-type amenities.
"Active Adult is clearly our fastest-growing division," Selva says. "We continue to build the Trilogy brand and are marketing to a younger active-adult buyer between 57 and 60 years old."
Shea Homes is also looking to expand its conventional homebuildingbusiness by its Sacramento and Florida divisions. Shea Homes offers a variety of homes ranging from the low $100,000s in Arizona to the more than $2 million in Southern California.
Peter Shea Sr. says he still is stunned that the company has grownso substantially. "I never dreamed 40 years ago we'd be this size; we just took one job at a time," he says. "Our parents' company built a huge infrastructure through projects in the heavy civil construction business and we're still surviving."
John Shea says the company always will strive to get better and that "there's a lot of growth left in real estate and construction."
Peter Shea Jr. takes it one step further, stating the company wishes to be known as the most-respected builder "through the eyes of ourcustomers, employees and competitors," he says.
RELATED ARTICLE: PROFILE
J.F. Shea Co. Inc.
2004 sales $3 billion+
HQ Walnut, Calif.
Employees About 2,300
Peter Shea, Jr., president of J.F. Shea Construction "We want to be the most respected builder in the country."
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